School closure plan changes yet again: Rainier Beach/Cleveland merger off the table, for now

Photo by Claudia Snell.
Photo by Claudia Snell.
Seattle school superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson has announced another revised slate of recommendations for school closures and program relocations.

The recently proposed merger between Rainier Beach and Cleveland high schools is apparently off the table again. (Amber Campbell at the Rainier Valley Post posts a possible reason why: the potential gang violence, according to several unnamed Seattle Police Department South Precinct sources, would have been significant.) Instead, one potential option is to close Aki Kurose Middle School, moving those students to Rainier Beach, which would then have a 6-12 comprehensive performing arts program. Another involves discontinuing the Center School program and moving its students from Seattle Center to Rainier Beach.

The African-American Academy is still scheduled for closure, with students from Van Asselt to move into that building.

According to the P-I:

“Board member Mary Bass on Tuesday suggested tabling some of the proposals to give struggling schools a chance to turn themselves around before facing closure or relocation.

“Goodloe-Johnson said the financial pressures facing the district make that an impossibility: ‘We are not in a position to give schools the option to grow. That’s just the reality.'”

There is some anger at the way this process is being handled. Hearings are not being scheduled for program closures, only building closures, so, for example, the African-American Academy does not get a hearing, because their building will remain open for the Van Asselt students to use. Last night there was a community meeting at Rainier Beach High School, to discuss its potential closure or merger, but the District’s policy is that since such meetings are not required, they don’t have to participate in or host meetings like this.

Blogger and columnist Sable Verity pulls no punches in her commentary:

“You may have valid points to raise about the District’s decisions — but they don’t have to hear them. It’s a big fat ‘talk to the hand’ situation right now, and it’s shameful.

“While Raj Manhas was an idiot overall (professionally speaking of course), he at least held meetings at every site impacted by his closure decisions; the only thing that has changed here is we have a new Sheriff in town, and she ain’t trying to hear your mouf.”

Summit K-12 and AS#1, both well-established alternative schools continue to be targeted for closure, which indicates to some parents of students in alternative programs that the district is no longer willing to support non-traditional education.

Parents of students at West Seattle’s Arbor Heights, however, might be feeling a bit more positive about the district; for now, Arbor Heights is off the chopping block. The Arbor Heights community was well-organized and willing to fight. A West Seattle Blog commenter asks a thought provoking question about schools that may be considered “easy targets” because of their demographics:

“I found some interesting numbers on Cooper’s annual report. Nearly 90 of the children that walk those halls (compared to AH 28) are bilingual students whose parents, or grandparents, or whomever they live with may not speak or even understand English at all. How loud will their ‘out cry’ be? Will they be heard in their native tongue? Additionally 71% of the students at Cooper receive free and reduced lunch, compared to 33% of AH students. The percentages are nearly reversed! We’re talking about some pretty poor kids at Cooper, with families that have very limited resources, comparatively… Public schools are good for Democracy. As citizens in a democracy it is our obligation to protect ALL public schools, not just the ones our own children attend.”

This PDF has the complete table of the current proposals, and a schedule of upcoming public hearings and School Board meetings.

(Editor’s note: this article has been slightly edited to clarify the source of the “potential gang violence” theory.)